The Detroit Red Wings 3-0 victory over the Nashville Predators Wednesday night was a night of thankfulness for many. Maybe none more than the fanbase.
The Red Wings are five games over .500 at Thanksgiving for the first time since 2014-15 when they were 12-5-5. It’s a marker that for many shows whether a team is legitimate or not. After Ville Husso’s theft of a game to Filip Hronek‘s dazzling offensive production, the Red Wings and their fans are experiencing a lot of gratitude as November nears a close.
Red Wings Fans Faith Being Rewarded
Though the rebuild itself wasn’t officially started until general manager Steve Yzerman took over, the Red Wings Stanley Cup contender window started closing the last time they were at least five games over .500. Once Pavel Datsyuk walked away, so too did any realistic chance Detroit had of advancing deep into the playoffs.
From there, it was a rebuild on the fly, which resulted in a five game series loss to Tampa in 2016, trading players away for draft capital, and then draft lottery disappointments. Once Yzerman arrived, the true, painful version of many more losses than wins began.
But the shrewd moves Yzerman and the front office made in the draft, free agency, and through trades are beginning to come to fruition. The players Yzerman retained from former general manager Ken Holland’s drafts have also been major players in Detroit’s improvement.
There’s still a lot of hockey to be played. It’s been a long wait for Red Wings fans to see their team not only competitive, but returning to former glory.
But this Thanksgiving, Detroit finds itself in a very strong spot for playoff consideration. Fans endured some brutal seasons but the faith shown is being rewarded.
Filip Hronek is Raising His Game While Silencing Doubters
It wasn’t long ago that Hronek was a favorite trade target for pundits, analysts, and even some fans. A brutal -29 during the 2021-22 season, and the rise of Moritz Seider clouded what was a quietly strong offensive output with 38 points (5-33).
What a difference a year makes.
Filip Hronek is running away with the most improved/comeback Red Wing of the year right now.
— Devin L. (@HockeyWithDevin) November 24, 2022
Hronek has often been the forgotten man–he was Detroit’s second round pick in 2016. That draft is remembered more for Datsyuk’s contract being dealt as well as the first round choice of Dennis Cholowski. But the extra pick acquired in the trade was used on him.
No one is forgetting him or doubting him now. Hronek has surged offensively and been a huge part of Detroit’s success this season. Captain Dylan Larkin is one of many taking notice.
“Kind of goes about his business, someone that never gets too high, never gets too low,” Larkin said. “Pretty great stretch he’s on right now, five goals, no empty-netters. He’s on a great roll right now.”
Plucking Magnus Hellberg Off Waivers Reveals Detroit’s Priorities
Never mind Husso’s third shutout of the season on Wednesday, or the fact that Detroit has a very capable tandem with Alex Nedeljkovic working in.
Just in case, Yzerman went out and brought Magnus Hellberg back through waivers. Head coach Derek Lalonde relayed Yzerman’s exact words following the game Wednesday.
UPDATE: The Detroit #RedWings today claimed goaltender Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) November 23, 2022
“That’s not something we talked about as a group,” Lalonde said about Yzerman’s choice to claim Hellberg. “His exact words were, ‘We have a lot of hockey coming up. We have a roster spot.’ I think it gives us another option if one of our two goalies here goes down.”
Whether Yzerman himself buys into the Thanksgiving Day marker being playoff indicators no one knows for sure. But a move like this shows that Detroit’s general manager wants his team to have every opportunity to win should the injury bug begin biting in the crease.
They may not be Stanley Cup contenders yet. It’s still a work in progress. But it’s clear that the expectations are shifting from patience with the process to seeing the process take hold.